L.A.'s XBiz Awards, mixing red-carpet propriety and porno prurience, celebrate both the performances and infrastructure that have made adult entertainment a $10-billion industry.
The red carpet was buzzing, and actress Riley Reid was trying to practice her acceptance speech.
But a sheepish fan in a bow tie wanted a picture. Fellow performers wanted good-luck hugs and kisses. Reporters wanted interviews.
Reid, 22, said she'd spoken with her mother before the show and they talked about what the actress might say if she won Female Performer of the Year.
Her mom wanted a shout-out from the stage. After all, the actress had inherited one of her better-known attributes from her. Reid had promised she wouldn't forget her.
"It's super-flattering and I would be super-happy if I won," Reid said. "Winning an award will help me feel like I am the best at what I do."
Under the hot lights and a blanket of pungent perfume, Reid and dozens of other performers vamped, posed, signed autographs and later gave awkward acceptance speeches — just like the Academy Awards or Golden Globes, except the evening featured categories for Girl/Girl Performer and Male Sex Toy of the Year, and a protester carrying a sign that read "Repent or Perish."
This was the 12th annual XBiz Awards, one of the glitziest affairs for the porn industry, which by some estimates brings in $10 billion annually worldwide and contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the Los Angeles economy each year.
The XBiz Awards are, indeed, an X-rated affair — but tamer than the rival AVN Awards, a lurid bacchanal held annually in Las Vegas for more than 25 years.
As the less glamorous Golden Globes to AVN's more established Oscars, the XBiz event — put on by the industry publication of the same name — is as much about recognizing what happens off-screen as on. About half of the 35 awards presented this Friday night in late January at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza honored e-commerce firms, retailers and product designers.
Observing the evening from a dingy backstage area — where female performers puffed on electronic cigarettes and drank beer under harsh fluorescent lights — XBiz founder Alec Helmy said his event "is not just about porn, it is about the entire realm of adult entertainment."
At 6:30 p.m., as the XBiz red-carpet arrivals were beginning, agent Mark Spiegler was frantically trying to organize his clientele.
"I have to round all the girls up, I have to get them tickets, I have to get them to the venue," huffed the portly agent, who represents Reid. "Most Hollywood agents have more assistants than I do."
XBiz's red-carpet hosts, Keiran Lee and Jesse Jane, interviewed a slew of performers, palling around with some and, in Jane's case, groping others.
The duo, both adult film stars, also asked what performers were — or weren't — wearing. Actress Christy Mack pulled up her black dress to reveal pink undergarments.
Reid, who got into the adult film business in 2010 after a brief stint as an exotic dancer, was a bundle of nerves. Though she won last year's XBiz Best New Starlet award, tonight she was concerned about showing up in the same outfit as a fellow performer.
"It's really nerve-racking," she said, clutching her see-through lace dress.
By now, the foyer had been transformed into a lively party. There were long lines at three cash bars, where vodka and Red Bull was the most popular beverage, though rum and Cokes were also in demand.
Patrons from a neighboring wine-tasting event pressed up against a velvet rope and ogled the XBiz women teetering past on their five-inch heels.
Actress Becky Bordo, who would serve as the show's announcer — introducing performers as they walked onstage to present awards — scanned the event's schedule. She didn't get a chance to rehearse her lines.
Winning an award will help me feel like I am the best at what I do.”
— Riley Reid, porn star
"It's so wild — you've just got to embrace it," said Bordo, who seemed eager to point out that she was not an adult performer. "They hired me because of a sexy voice that I do."
At around 9:30 p.m., retired adult film superstar Jenna Jameson swept onto the stage in the Century Plaza's subterranean ballroom.
Her selection as the evening's host had been controversial. In recent years, the actress, whose oeuvre includes "Camera Sutra" and "The New Devil in Miss Jones," had been arrested a handful of times and went through a high-profile domestic spat.
Jameson was cheered loudly by the 1,500 attendees when she stepped onstage, but then stumbled through a rambling opening monologue about technology's impact on the pornography business, and began to lose her audience.
"I took a selfie and now I'm all of a sudden back in the industry!" she joked, to sparse applause.
As throbbing techno music blared, a procession of presenters took the stage to hand out the awards, plain crystal trophies far more chaste than the unclothed Oscar statuette. "Occupied" won Feminist Porn Release of the Year. MojoHost won the award for Web Host of the Year, while AdamEve.com took home the trophy for Online Retailer of the Year.
Once underway, the show largely resembled a typical Hollywood awards event, except for the occasional flash of a private part and the persistent sexual innuendo — as when performer Derrick Pierce announced April O'Neil as Girl/Girl Performer of the Year, but then couldn't spot her in the crowd.
"I haven't had sex with her, so I don't know what she looks like," he said.
Winners took the stage to thank their agents, while bored attendees played with their smartphones, and nominees' movie clips were shown — though most, in the interest of decency, appeared to be culled from the opening minutes of films.
Backstage, veteran porn star Ron Jeremy sipped tea from a paper cup as he waited for his cue to present an award.
"I will be walking the Grammys red carpet in two days. Those have a lot more power, but … look at those dresses," he said, gesturing toward several women sitting nearby. "Those are pretty expensive dresses. People get a kick out of this. They take this seriously."
XBiz Executive Managing Editor Dan Miller, meanwhile, was putting out fires. A trophy had gone missing, and he was searching for a replacement. A photographer who didn't have an all-access press pass and was known for pestering performers for autographs had to be escorted from the backstage area.
Onstage, Jameson was becoming the subject of derision. Actor Steven St. Croix, known for such titles as "Bad Wives" and "The Prisoner," drew guffaws when he referred to her as "hashtag train wreck."
The actresses seated at Spiegler's table were getting hungry. Because the agent knew the XBiz event didn't include dinner, he had brought snacks — bananas, pears, Nutella, Twizzlers and Chex Mix. The women grabbed at the provisions.
By 10:30, the show was an hour behind schedule. The lone picketer had given up and gone home. But soon it would be time for the presentation of the biggest prize — Female Performer of the Year. Presenters St. Croix and actress Ginger Lynn tore into the envelope and announced that Reid had won. The audience exploded in cheers.
Reid bounded to the stage and made good on the promise to her mother — with a flourish, turning her back to moon the audience with that inherited attribute.
"That was very spontaneous," she said. "I was like, 'Well, here it goes.'"
(It wasn't her only moment of spontaneity: When this reporter handed Reid a business card, the actress rubbed the card on her bare chest, joking that she'd keep it there because her dress had no pockets.)
Backstage, clutching her trophy, Reid said she was thrilled to win the award. And she was planning a celebration.
"I might hit up the male performer of the year and we might have a little party tonight," she said.
Attendees streamed for the exits. An oily pizza box was left at an abandoned table, discarded by a guest who apparently had ordered delivery during the show.
The box was empty, and soon the ballroom was too.